Paul Basil | November 5, 2014

Back to the drawing board at Villgro entrepreneurs workshop

Sometimes it is important for all entrepreneurs to step back from the day-to-day work of building their businesses and make sure they are still accomplishing what they originally set out to do. Villgro recently held a workshop at MGM Beach Resort near Chennai that gave a number of our new pre-product and pre-revenue incubatees the frameworks and time to do exactly that.  By the end of the week all of the entrepreneurs were feeling reenergized about their businesses, had asked and answered tough questions about their business models, and were re-focused on their missions.

Adarsh Natarajan (left) of Aindra Systems and his mentor Bhushan KC (center) discuss Aindra's logic model (impact theory) with Aina Gaur (right) (Head of Finance, Villgro)

We started off the week with an engaging day on Human Centered Design from Jacob Mathew of Industree Foundation, who illustrated the use of numerous human centered design tools and also challenged the entrepreneurs to think about how they communicate their businesses differently.  Many of the entrepreneurs had some previous exposure to the concepts covered, but most of them realised they hadn’t been applying them rigorously to the problems and customer segments they were trying to address.

One entrepreneur working on a medical device had done months of need-finding, speaking with doctors, nurses, and others in the healthcare system, but realised that he needed to spend time using the tools presented to structure the information he had gathered so it would paint a more vivid picture of the customers he was trying to serve. Taking time to review the information he had gathered also helped him realize that there was one key stakeholder group that he had gathered only minimal insights from, so he made a plan to capture more information from them after the workshop.

The next two days were filled with insightful sessions on different parts of the Business Model Canvas (BMC) from Villgro’s own PR Ganapathy and Mukesh Sharma. Entrepreneurs learned the importance of starting their product or service development process by using the previous day’s lessons in customer insight gathering as a foundation to build a value proposition that solves their target customer’s biggest pain points using Alex Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Designer, and then building the rest of the business model around that.

The sessions included a number of real-life examples of businesses applying this methodology and moving on to great success, as well as a few examples of those who hadn’t kept the customer in mind and ended up failing. There was time throughout the day for the entrepreneurs to build each segment of the business model canvas for their own businesses.

Piyush Sohani (left) and Koushik Yanamandram (center) of Sustainearth speak with Villgro CEO Paul Basil about their customer pains and gains.

The Sustainearth team, who have previously done classroom sessions of BMC, remarked that they got a lot of value from the sessions because they had not evolved their business model along with their product as they iterated through multiple concepts over the last year. Taking time during the workshop to think through the details of the whole BMC made them realise they had a lot of work to do in many areas of the business model so that they would be able to successfully sell their product in the market. The evenings were kept free for the entrepreneurs to socialise and many of them found ways that they could work together, or help each other with specific challenges they were facing.

Over the last day of the workshop, the entrepreneurs had significant time to work with senior Villgro staff and some of the mentors who will be working with them in the coming months. During these conversations, the entrepreneurs and mentors worked together to highlight the highest priority challenges that the entrepreneurs will work to resolve in the coming months. All of the entrepreneurs highlighted this work time as the best part of the workshop, and a fitting way to end the week, because spending focused time with someone with so much experience, and an outside perspective, helped them make sure that they are focused on things that will help them reach their original goals.

To know more about Villgro’s incubation programme, visit www.

Also read An imperfect recipe: What Villgro looks for in new companies